Fisherman’s Friend, Jamie Vardy and a new ground – Carl Marston’s Ipswich Town guide to Fleetwood

A general view of Highbury Stadium, the home of Fleetwood Town. Picture: PA

A general view of Highbury Stadium, the home of Fleetwood Town. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds.Here he gives Town fans a flavour of what to expect from a vist to Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium

Inside Highbury Stadium, which has a capacity of just 5,327. Picture: PA

Inside Highbury Stadium, which has a capacity of just 5,327. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

I have one-up on Ipswich Town, in that I have a dubious claim to fame - I have already visited Fleetwood Town, three times in fact, a treat that will finally befall the Portman Road club and their loyal travelling fans this weekend.

It's not often that I get the chance to introduce the delights of a 'new' ground, or fresh opposition, with regards Ipswich.

I will probably repeat the exercise for Town's respective visits to Rochdale and Wycombe later this season, two other Town 'firsts' and places that I have frequented on more times than I care to remember.

But for now, I give you Highbury Stadium, the glossy but compact home of Fleetwood Town, a club who were languishing in the ninth tier of English football only 14 years ago.

England striker Jamie Vardy, in the colours of his current club, Leicester City, but who was playing

England striker Jamie Vardy, in the colours of his current club, Leicester City, but who was playing for Fleetwood Town when Carl Marston first visited in early 2012. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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I will never forget my first visit to this north-west corner of the Fylde Peninsular, a coastal town situated just seven miles up the road (or along the beach) from Blackpool, but precisely 283 miles from Portman Road.

It was a little over seven years ago, when the Cod Army were plying their trade in the National League (then the Blue Square Premier), that I paid my first visit, with Braintree Town, and watched as one player in particular rang rings around The Iron.

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His name was Jamie Vardy, a young striker with attitude (and dyed hair), who bagged the second goal in a comfortable 3-1 home win on January 24, 2012, just one of 31 league goals he netted that term.

Fleetwood went on to win the Conference title that season, with a whopping 103 points, and so secure promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history.

But whatever happened to Jamie Vardy?

A complete mystery.

The low-down

- Ground: Highbury Stadium

- Club: Fleetwood Town (re-formed in 1997, the third incarnation of the club which was first established in 1908)

- Ground capacity: 5,327

- Town's visits: none

- Success: won six promotions in 10 years, between 2004-05 and 2013-14, from the North-West Counties League to League One.

Quirky facts - name & colours

There are obvious similarities with Arsenal (though of course not in terms of historical success or footballing prowess), in that the Lancashire club not only play at Highbury Stadium, but also play in red shirts with white sleeves, and white shorts, the familiar home kit of the Gunners.

As regards the stadium, this is named after Highbury Avenue, the nearest street to the ground, and so has nothing to do with Arsenal's famous old home.

And unlike the Gunners' former home, which was closed in 2006 - the pitch is now a communal garden surrounded by new flats - Highbury Stadium is very much alive, and has been redeveloped in recent times since first hosting football in 1939.

As regards the club colours, Fleetwood never deliberately replicated Arsenal's home kit - instead, the red and white was introduced after the First World War as part of an arrangement with a local trawler company, whose corporate colours happened to be red and white.

Instead, the old Fleetwood FC club, founded in 1908, played in amber-and-black stripes. Those colours were ditched when the crew from the local trawler company offered to buy the club a new kit - so long as it was red and white.

I guess it could have been worse - those corporate colours could have been salmon pink and turquoise!

Carl's Fleetwood experience

I have taken my running shoes on my last two visits to Fleetwood, to go for pre-match jogs - this is probably the best way to see the town (quickly, and without stopping), because it is a little run-down.

On the plus side, if you are a fan of the Fisherman's Friend, that rather potent menthal lozenge, or are just suffering from a sore throat, then you are in luck. The company (Lofthouse Fleetwood) is based nearby, and the lozenge has been curing respiratory problems since the 1860s.

The lozenge's target audience was originally the deep-sea fishermen, but Town fans might need a packet after roaring on their side to victory this Saturday!

Stadium-wise, it's very small, down at No. 112 on the list of stadium capacities in England (5,327), but it's perfectly formed.

And on the pitch? The surface is good, and you can expect goals, and not just because Town are in form. I have reported on 13 goals in my three visits, the last a 4-0 defeat for Colchester in 2015.

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